By Kat Bein
If a ball of kinetic energy came to life, donned oversized overalls, and braided its hair, you might call it Duckwrth. The rapper, visual artist and all-around performer has a vibrant sound and enthusiastic attitude that defies categorization and smashes expectations. Raised in South Central Los Angeles, he hit SnowGlobe Festival's Igloo stage backed by Oakland-bred band mates, and though he faced Lake Tahoe's 40-degree chill, he jumped, jived, and wailed across the stage until he dripped with sweat.
In 2016, his I'M UUGLY mixtape brought his rowdy spirit under a spotlight, and this year saw Duckwrth spread his wings to fly toward greater, funkier, more soulful heights. Freshly toweled and clothed in a dry Iron Maiden long-sleeve, Duckwrth caught up with MTV News to chat inspirations, always daring to be different, and how he plans to chase his dreams into the new year.
MTV News: That was a fun show. I loved the energy from all of you guys; I want to know where you got your moves!
Duckwrth: What moves? I just be freestylin', going for it. I have no dance moves. I can two-step!
MTV News: You don't think you're dancing, but there must just be something about the act of performing that unlocks whatever this alter ego is inside you.
Duckwrth: Exactly, because I'm not going to do that shit in regular life... but you put me on stage, and I'm gonna go crazy.
MTV News: How long have you been performing in your life? Is it something you've done since you were a kid?
Duckwrth: I would say so. I was in the choir when I was younger and stuff like that. Being in front of people, using my voice. I've been doing that for a minute.
MTV News: When did you realize you could keep people's attention?
Duckwrth: In college. I was doing little small shows, and I always see people's eyes get all pearly, and I was like, "OK cool. Tight. I guess I'm good at this."
MTV News: Your sound is very eclectic, and you pride yourself on being somebody who doesn't limit themselves to one genre. Who was first giving you punk records and metal records? Your dad was a musician.
Duckwrth: Yeah, but it wasn't him. It was this shorty that I was crushing on in high school. She was listening to punk. I liked this other girl, and she was listening to rock, but she was more into emo — Green Day, My Chemical Romance — and I was like, "OK, this is cool." But then this other girl was listening to The Casualties, Minor Threat, and shit like that. She was wearing all the t-shirts, and I was like, "Dude, she's so tight, and her t-shirts are hella tight. Let me check these songs." I listened to them, and I was like, whoa, and then I found Bad Brains and that was it.
MTV News: You just released the "Soprano" video, and it seems like you were aiming to make a statement with it.
Duckwrth: It's up to self-interpretation. I'm just showing a mirror, what the look is, what the sound is, what's popular, and just showing a mirror, see what people feel about it.
MTV News: I've read also that you're particularly fond of the video-making process.
Duckwrth: It's my closest chance to be a director or producer. Being able to have a thought in my brain and have it come to life, that's a trippy feeling. To be able to look back like, damn, that all started with just like, I was like sitting on the toilet for way too long, and this good idea came in my brain and then it became a full-fleshed idea.
MTV News: So you're pretty hands-on with the treatments?
Duckwrth: Oh yeah. I draw it out. I write it out. I get pretty deep in it. For these past videos, I cleared up my whole wall in my apartment, and I drew out all the characters. For "Fall Back," I had a long, red ribbon, and I had me on one side being pulled by the red ribbon and I had all the other — we call them "hype beasts," the dudes that are painted white. They're on the other side pulling me. I drew that all out and storyboarded a good amount of it. So it's tight to be able to really get in depth. But it's for me, my challenge is to make a directer see what's in my head. That's the hardest thing ever. The closest you can get sometimes is maybe 80 percent to what you really wanted. So my goal is to at least in 95 percent of what I imagine in my head.
MTV News: In 2018, you released mostly singles, but in the years before that, you released some bigger projects. Are you working on something bigger for 2019? What's in the works?
Duckwrth: Definitely. I'm gonna drop an EP early, and then drop my first commercial LP closer to summer if not the summer.
MTV News: How long have you been working on that one?
Duckwrth: Philosophically? Since 2013. It's something that when you put it on, you automatically feel good. It's called Super Good. It's very simple: You put that shit on, and you feel good. I actually produced [and] recorded a whole 'nother album that will never come out, but this would be the baby from that project.
MTV News: As this year comes to a close, it's very natural to reflect on the things you've learned and the experiences you had. What has 2018 meant for you?
Duckwrth: I've never done so much international traveling in one short time span. That was crazy. My whole brain, it opened up so much. I added so much color to my palette. Manifestation is real. I'm a walking, living example of that. My career is an example of that. My success now and in the future, what I'm going to be able to obtain, and be able to create and deliver, that's all going to be via walking through faith and manifestation. This year was a very big answer to the question. 2018 was a whole answer, and I'm like, fuck, wow. So now it's just continuing to walk in faith, knowing what I want to do, my whole purpose with music and art.
MTV News: Is there anything else you want to say or mention, or anything that's important?
Duckwrth: Eat produce. That shit is everything. Fruits and veggies, yo. A lot of people be having hard times when they're older because they ate shitty when they were younger. Eat some fruits and vegetables. It'll change your life.